A Bard in the Hand
Warning! These characters (and sadly, the actors that portray them) do not belong to me. They are the sole property of Universal/MCA. This story contains subject matter which those under 18 (or those with little tolerance) have no business reading. Beware reader! Beware!
Xena looked at Gabrielle in surprise. "Really?" she questioned. "That reminds me of the time I misplaced my favorite dagger." The tall raven-haired warrior shut the door behind them, effectively shutting out the harsh winds that had driven them to seek shelter in the first place. She smirked. "You'll never guess where *that* ended up."
Gabrielle arched her eyebrows in grisly anticipation of her travelling companion's tale.
"Xena!" came a boisterous cry from across the room.
The women turned to see a rather swarthy, muscular man approaching them. He was dressed like a warrior, and if it hadn't been for the great scar he sported down the entire left side of his face, Gabrielle might almost have thought him attractive.
"The mighty Xena!" he said as he reached her, propping his hands on his hips. "How fitting we should meet again." He appraised her lithe body in a very deliberate show of approval. "It has been so very long."
"Mathias," Xena replied coolly, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "By the gods, I am surprised you are still alive."
With that, Xena swept past the man and found a table. She motioned for Gabrielle to sit and the bard did so and then so did Mathias.
"Why would I not be alive, Xena?" he cooed in a raspy voice as he pulled his chair up closer to the warrior. "If memory serves, you left me quite fatigued, but very much alive."
Xena looked noticeably agitated at the man's words, and her gaze quickly moved to Gabrielle, as though to gauge her friend's response. Gabrielle seemed visibly puzzled by his comments, and more than a little put out by his presence.
Xena scowled. "Well Mathias, I suppose I'm just surprised to see that no one has removed your viscera. You have such a way with people and all."
Gabrielle smiled at that, and set her staff against the table as she began to relax a little. It was rather unusual to bump into an old acquaintance of Xena's who did not want to nail her to a tree. She was still uncertain, however, just how welcome this man's conversation was.
Mathias grinned, inebriated as he was. "My what? Are you getting saucy with me?" he asked as he traced the length of Xena's elbow with his index finger.
Gabrielle shifted in her chair uncomfortably. "How long have you two known each other?" she asked, trying to move the conversation from disembowelment and innuendo to cheerier things.
"What?" Mathias snapped in irritation, finally realising there was someone else present besides Xena. "Who are you?"
"I'm Gabrielle," she piped back amiably. "Xena and I"--
"Where have you been these years, Xena?" Mathias interrupted. "It seems an eternity since I've seen you. Judging by your garb, I say you're still in the same line of work."
Gabrielle scowled at the rebuff. She was used to Xena being in the foreground, but this was a little more disregard than she was accustomed to.
Xena watched the bard in amusement. She had always told Gabrielle she was a little on the long-winded side. Now Mathias, in his rude and piggish manner, was making that all too clear to her. Xena looked back at Mathias. "Well, I have changed."
"Have you, now?" the intoxicated man questioned. "I hope you haven't changed too much. You were very adept in bed."
Gabrielle's eyes went wide with shock and revulsion. Xena glanced to her friend, concerned that her reaction would be one of disapproval. Yes, Xena had bedded this man, but it had been for strategic reasons alone, and it had been back before she had been a person of integrity- back when she killed and pillaged and took no prisoners, and answered to no higher sense of morality. Xena was different now, and Gabrielle had seen to that. Since meeting the bard, her life had turned completely around.
But there were these occasional reminders of her past transgressions. And here was one in living color, with the bad breath to prove it. Xena hoped Gabrielle would not be so offended by this man's blatant reference to Xena "in bed" that she would lose respect for her. Sometimes, Xena felt, Gabrielle's respect was all she really cared about.
Mathias saw that there was some unspoken thing going on between Xena and this other woman, and frankly, it was beginning to annoy him. He wanted to sleep with this warrior more than he had wanted any other woman all day. This little blond with the staff was gumming up the works!
"Look," he said to Gabrielle, "would you excuse us? We have some catching up to do."
Gabrielle looked at the man with a mixture of gratitude, befuddlement and disgust. Before Xena could protest, the bard replied "Oh, certainly! Pardon me," and with that she got up and left Xena sitting with her mouth agape.
Gabrielle moved to the bar at the rear of the establishment and pulled up a seat there, leaning her staff beside her. She heard no protestations from Xena, and that left her feeling rather hurt. True, Gabrielle had bolted at the slightest hint to do so, but the thought of listening to more lurid details of Xena in bed with that fetid bastard was so abhorrent to her that she could not even allow the thought to fleetingly enter her mind without bile rising to the back of her throat.
"What will you have, miss?" the tavernkeep asked.
"Cider," Gabrielle answered without thinking. "Er wait. I mean ale " She paused in indecision. "I just want something strong," she finally asserted with a thump on the bar.
"Might I make a suggestion?" a warm voice posed from Gabrielle's left.
The bard turned to see an attractive chestnut-haired woman, not much older than Gabrielle herself. The woman had eyes so dark and haunting they reminded Gabrielle of onyx. "Um, certainly, " the bard replied, brushing her blonde hair out of her eyes.
The woman smiled. She looked to the tavernkeep and shook her head. "Balius, get this woman some of your punch." He nodded and walked into the kitchen. The woman looked back to Gabrielle. "It's very sweet," she explained. "Quite like fruit yet very potent."
"Thank you. I'm not much of a drinker."
"I could tell. My name is Aurora," the woman offered with a smile.
The tavernkeep returned with a tall glass containing a red liquid, which he set before the bard. She eyed it appraisingly, then tipped the whole thing back and emptied it in one enormous series of swallows. Aurora had been true to her word, and Gabrielle sucked in her breath as the force of the spirits hit her.
"Forgive me for prying," Aurora prefaced. "But are you drinking to forget something?"
"Oh no," Gabrielle replied evenly as she motioned for Balius to fill her glass again. "I have reconciled my memories." She scowled. "It's just that sometimes I want the experience of something profound to remind me that I'm alive."
"Suffering from a hum-drum existence, are you?" Aurora chuckled. "Aren't you travelling with those warriors? How dull can your life be?"
Gabrielle did not even bother to look over her shoulder to acknowledge where the parties in question were seated. Instead, she drained her second glass of punch and ordered a third. "I'm with her but I'm not with him," she clarified bitterly. "He's an old acquaintance, or something."
Aurora looked over to the table behind them. A drunken-looking man was trying to no avail to win the affections of a stern-looking woman with a dark expression on her face and her chin in her hand. She seemed to look over to Gabrielle often, but the looks were not returned.
"You're *with* her?"
Aurora was stunned. Not only would she never have picked this young woman out as someone who would have another woman as her lover, but she would not have thought that dark, brooding warrior would have been her type. Aurora decided that she herself was far more like Gabrielle's type.
"I see why you're upset."
"You do?" Gabrielle asked, wondering exactly what was in the punch that made her feel so light-headed.
"Sure. If you were with me, I would never let you out of my sight for an instant."
Gabrielle's brow furrowed. "You wouldn't?"
"Nope. Too many unscrupulous characters around here. You're far too beautiful to go unattended."
Gabrielle blushed slightly at the compliment. "I am? Thank you." She paused. "What do you mean? I'm not unattended."
"Well, your woman doesn't seem to mind you being here in my company while she socializes with someone else," Aurora pointed out.
A confused look slowly drifted over the bard's fine features. "What do you mean, *my woman*?"
"I mean that I think I would treat you with a little more courtesy."
"She and I are not lovers," Gabrielle suddenly insisted, shaking her head vigorously. "Tavern man, I need more of this red stuff."
"You aren't?" Aurora's face lit up at the sudden prospect of bedding this delicate blonde with the blue-green eyes and the well-defined abdomen.
Gabrielle looked at the counter and muttered "no," softly. "She has no claim on me, nor I on her. We are merely friends."
Aurora studied the girl. So much for those notions of a long night of arduous passion
"You love her, I see."
Gabrielle's gaze shot up in surprise. How was it she had known her for such a short time, yet this woman possessed the ability to see deep into her soul? "I "
"Have you told her?"
"I can't," Gabrielle insisted, shaking her head decidedly. "We have been through so much together. If I lose her now I think it would truly kill me."
Aurora was touched by the bard's plaintive confession. She did not know why, but there was something about this young woman that she liked very much, and as much as she would have liked to remove all her clothing and caress her lean, muscular body, part of her just wanted to pull her in close and nurture her.
"So you must find a way to tell her without actually saying it."
"You wish me to act it out?" Gabrielle queried. "She never gets the answer when we play that game. I don't think that"--
"You misunderstand," Aurora interjected softly. "What I am suggesting is that you test her feelings for you. Thus, you have made no admissions, and have not jeopardized your friendship." She put her hand on Gabrielle's supportively. "But then you will no longer need to wonder all the time how she feels."
Gabrielle smiled at this thought. It would be nice to finally know! She had been pining for Xena for as long as she could remember. At first the feelings had been strange and unfamiliar to her. It took her some time to sort them all out. But now there was no doubt, and had been none for quite some time, that Gabrielle was in love with her. She would gladly give up her life for the warrior.
"All you must decide is this " Aurora continued. "If the answer is no, will you be able to set your feelings aside and continue as you are now?"
There was a short pause. "Yes. I can do that. It could simply be enough that she tells me she loves me from time to time."
"She has told you this?"
"Lots! All the time practically!" the bard asserted with a rather tipsy shake of her head.
"Has anything physical happened?"
"No, not really. Just the occasional kiss."
"You have kissed?! You mean just a quick peck on the cheek?"
"Yes, that. And the full on the lips ones too."
Aurora drummed her fingers on the counter. "Are you sure you two aren't lovers?"
Gabrielle smiled at that. She liked this woman who was so insightful. "I swear to you. Other than the kissing well, and the bathing"-
"And the sleeping together."
"Sleeping together? Clothed or unclothed?"
"Oh, definitely clothed. There are nights when I feel like I might burst from feeling her so near me but not being able to touch her."
"Hmm. All right, Gabrielle. Let us test your warrior."
"I will make advances toward you."
Gabrielle scowled. "Pardon?"
Aurora smiled and exhaled loudly. "All right, follow me on this. I make a sexual advance toward you, which you do not discourage."
"How do you know she will notice this subtle exchange?" Gabrielle asked, not certain if this woman really was interested in helping her as much as she was interested in grasping Gabrielle's buttocks like ripe melons.
"Now do not betray me and look at her, but your warrior has been watching us intently from the instant we began speaking."
A bright smile lit up Gabrielle. "Truly?"
"Truly. And I think she will notice anything we do. So, if I was to proposition you and you were to accept, do you think she would step in?"
"I can hope she would."
"Do you think she would, say stab me?" Aurora asked nonchalantly.
Gabrielle laughed loudly at that, the drink taking its toll and forcing a horrible snorting sound from her which only made her laugh more. "Well, I can't say that she's a big softie, but she won't *kill* you."
Aurora raised an eyebrow. "And you know this how?"
"She won't hurt anyone if I ask her nicely not to."
There was a long silence as Aurora took all this information in. "Are you serious?"
"There is no way this woman will reject you, Gabrielle," she said with certainty. "She's already whipped."
Xena sat moping at her table as she watched the bard across the room. How had this happened? How had she somehow lost the company of the one person she could stand being around, and ended up saddled with Mathias? This man was a carbuncle on the vast buttock of humanity! She should have killed him years ago when she had the chance. If Xena's pride had not been so wounded by Gabrielle's hasty departure, she would vivisect Mathias right now, go over to the bar and apologize to her bard.
Now, as it stood, there was some other young girl over there engaging Gabrielle in conversation. It's a good thing she hadn't plopped down next to a man, Xena thought, drowning out whatever Mathias was saying. She would hate to think that Gabrielle was being plied with alcohol by some lecherous swine in the hopes of violating the poor, naïve girl.
What was happening there? Xena wondered. She studied the attractive brunette who now took Gabrielle's hand in her own and stroked it softly. Was Gabrielle in need of some cheering?
Xena's eyes widened as she watched the stranger take Gabrielle's hand and place to her own breast. Gabrielle did not pull it away! What was this about? Was the woman experiencing some cardiac arrhythmia? Gabrielle was no healer!
Aurora reached up to run her fingers along Gabrielle's jawline. "You know," she began softly, lost in the caresses, "you really are the most profoundly beautiful woman I've ever seen."
Gabrielle smiled at the compliment and grasped Aurora's hand as it came to rest on Gabrielle's cheek.
"If your warrior does not give you the answer that you seek " Aurora began, almost afraid to finish her thought.
"Perhaps I could come back this way sometime," the bard volunteered. "But I could never leave her."
"There's always tonight," the brunette offered, and with that, leaned in to capture a kiss from the lips she so earnestly sought. Gabrielle arched her back and leaned in as well, closing her eyes.
Gabrielle and Aurora froze mid-lean and turned to see Xena, looking formidable and perturbed.
"Yes, Xena?" Gabrielle asked nonchalantly.
"Xena?" Aurora repeated in panic. "*The* Xena? The one who slays Cyclops and battles entire legions? That Xena?"
Xena raised her eyebrow in a subtle show of defiance. "Hello."
"What do you need?" Gabrielle reasserted.
"Would you excuse Gabrielle and me for just a moment?" Xena said, in a less than tolerant voice.
"Bye," was all Aurora had time to say before she bolted from her chair and flew across the room. Xena quickly took the woman's seat.
"Gabrielle, how do you know that woman?"
"I just met her."
"Just now? Right here?"
"Is there a point to this?"
Xena sighed. "Gabrielle, I don't want to shock you I realize that you're a bit delicate sometimes. But, I feel it my duty to inform you that that woman was attempting to seduce you."
Gabrielle looked at Xena and merely blinked. "How do you know that's not what I wanted?"
All possibilities of Xena responding verbally were dashed when every molecule of air rushed from her lungs and failed to be promptly replaced. All she was able to do at that point was open her mouth, but nothing came out. Repeated opening and closing produced the same results.
"You know, Xena, sometimes I feel like I'm on fire. I just feel so..."
"--I don't think you realize what you're getting yourself into," Xena replied when the gift of sound was at last restored to her.
"What are you asking me?"
Gabrielle leaned toward the warrior and looked at her with desire. The sight of it made Xena's chest pound and her stomach sink. "I want to know if you have ever been with a woman," the bard clarified, taking another sip of punch but never breaking eye contact with her partner.
"I I may ," Xena stammered nervously. Had Gabrielle always looked at her this way and she had just never noticed? Or had she simply had too much of whatever red fluid she was drinking? At any rate, the sensuous look was unmistakable, and the intention without question. "There may have been a time in my past, when I sought the comfort of a woman," she finally stated.
Gabrielle leaned even closer to Xena, so that their faces were only inches apart. "I'm not talking about comfort. You can get comfort from a dog." Her finger touched Xena's lips impulsively, and trailed down her chin.
"Gabrielle, what is it you want?"
With that question hanging in the air, the bard closed the remaining distance between them slowly and erotically. Her hand went to Xena's cheek and it seemed to take an eternity, but her mouth settled on Xena's. It was not a kiss as previous kisses had been, but a slow, sweet exploration of mouths that drove away any sense of reason and control that Xena had once possessed.
And then it was over.
"Come to bed," Gabrielle whispered as she stood. "I got us a room upstairs." Then she ascended the steps.
"Sweet Aphrodite," Xena gasped, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle until she was no longer visible. "What are you doing to me?"
Xena turned back to the patrons as feeling again began to enter her body. She saw Mathias staring slack-jawed at her, and he rose and approached.
"You really have changed," he said with a belch. He turned on his heel and left the tavern.
Xena caught sight of Aurora in the corner, hastily attempting to look too busy to make eye contact. Xena sat across from her.
"You!" she barked, causing Aurora to physically bolt upright and squeal in surprise. "What just happened here? What did you tell Gabrielle?"
"I-I told her she was beautiful," the younger woman replied nervously as she stared at the table.
"Yeah? What else? What did you say that made her this way?"
"What way is that?"
"Sex-crazed!" Xena answered with a thud on the table. "Did you cast some spell on her?"
"No," Aurora answered flatly. "You did."
Xena eyed the woman warily. "Explain."
"She is in love with you, you know. But she's afraid to tell you. She doesn't want to alienate you. She said losing you would kill her."
"And how does that explain her kissing you?" Xena asked bitterly.
Aurora's eyes became wide with fear. "Ah, that! Well, she was trying to see if you would intervene." She cleared her throat nervously as she waited to see if the warrior believed her.
"And you would have me think"--
"Xena, trust me. It is in no interest of mine to tell you this. I think Gabrielle a most remarkable and exquisite woman. If she had not lost her heart to you, I might have some chance." As the last few words tripped from her lips, she braced herself for the blow that would most certainly follow. When after a minute, that blow did not come, Aurora looked at Xena to see her sitting deep in thought.
"Have a fine evening," Xena said as she stood. "And if you leave this chair to venture upstairs at any point during our stay here, I will remove your heart through your nose. Got it?"
Upstairs, Gabrielle was awash in fear. Why had Xena not come to her? Had her worst fears come true? Had she driven Xena away with her brash attempt at seduction?
Perhaps she could blame it all on the punch! She would immediately jump in bed and feign unconsciousness! In the morning she would tell Xena that she had been slipped some horrible herb which makes you say really stupid things to people you care about. That would be the story!
Gabrielle jumped as the door opened and she realized she had no time to put her clever plan into action. Instead, she stood nervously staring at Xena, fidgeting with her hands.
"Gabrielle," she interrupted. "I think it should be my turn now. Let me speak."
Gabrielle nodded slowly in concession.
"It would be a lie to say I have not thought about you- about being your lover. I have. Sometimes it seems that's all I can think about."
"What times?" the bard asked hopefully.
Xena's brow furrowed in thought. "Well, like when you're curled up next to me asleep. Or when we're astride Argo and with every step she takes you rub up against me, and your hands are wrapped around my waist."
Gabrielle smiled as she walked toward Xena now, feeling more confident with every step.
"Or when we bathe together and I watch you undress."
"You have the most amazing body and when the water hits your skin it's as if"-
"As if the gods themselves have blessed you- as though you were kissed by the sun"-
"Xena," she said moving in closely and staring up into the warrior's ice blue eyes.
"And you smell of wildflowers and spice"--
"Xena." This time it was nearly a whisper as the bard brought her lips to those who so typically were not encumbered by words, but now, overflowed with them. The kiss was at first soft and tender, but became more urgent as tongues feverishly sought each other. Their bodies, it seemed, could not get close enough to each other as they hungrily pressed to one another, the feel of the other's body sending the most exquisite tremors through them.
The agony of delaying this moment time and time again gave them an urgency unparalleled by any previous desire. Normally, removing Xena's armor was a time-consuming process, but not on this eve. Her leathers, boots and greaves were hastily thrown into a pile in the corner. Gabrielle did not even notice her own clothing being removed, but now there she was, naked on the bed with Xena. Their mouths had not separated longer than an instant since they had met, and hands now roamed wildly over newly discovered flesh.
As Xena caressed Gabrielle's breast, a low moan instinctively escaped the bard, and she thrust herself forward so that Xena's thigh was trapped between her own. Rhythmically, Gabrielle moved her hips, unable to satiate the need that was building within her.
Xena felt her own desire mounting. She felt the wetness on her thigh as Gabrielle gyrated against it. "Gods, Gabrielle," the warrior rasped, overcome by the bard's immediate and all-consuming responses.
Gabrielle lunged forward to again capture the warrior's mouth with her own, and no further sentiment could be uttered by either woman. The blonde rolled Xena onto her back and began fervently exploring the warrior's body without ever repressing her need to taste Xena's mouth.
True, both women had fantasized about this moment many times over, but neither had anticipated the overwhelming hunger that had enveloped them. Gabrielle had never in her life felt such raw, sexual craving. The feeling seemed to well from deep in the pit of her stomach, not unlike the feeling of falling through the air, but then it spread through her body like an uncontained fire. It made her ache with need.
Xena could not get enough of touching and tasting Gabrielle. The sweetness of the punch still clung to the bard's lips as Xena nipped and assailed them. When had her young ingenue become so skilled?
Wanting to hear Gabrielle cry out her name, Xena moved her hand down to the source of Gabrielle's wetness. The bard gasped in pleasure and approval as Xena stroked the woman above her. Gabrielle pulled her mouth away from Xena's and stared into the warrior's azure eyes.
"Oh, Xena," she breathed. "Yes." The bard began to move against Xena's hand rhythmically, and her eyes closed tightly as the sensations began to wash over her.
Xena watched Gabrielle's beautiful face as she gradually increased the pressures of her ministrations more and more. The small whimpers of pleasure from Gabrielle became heedless cries of passion, and when Xena's fingers penetrated her, the bard's outcry brought Xena to the precipice of her own climax.
The warrior continued her manual orchestrations until Gabrielle's body reached it's zenith. Throwing back her head in release, the bard called out to the gods as orgasm ripped through her taut and restless body.
Gabrielle collapsed on Xena as the tremors began to abate, though the fire in her body remained, now accompanied by a feeling of fatigue.
"Gabrielle?" Xena asked softly, kissing the top of the blonde head that lay against her chin. "Are you all right?"
"All right would be an understatement of titanic proportions," she replied, bringing her eyes back to the deep blue ones before her.
Xena smiled and they kissed as the warrior rolled back over, pinning the bard beneath her.
Gabrielle grinned wickedly. "Is it your turn now?"
"Gods, I hope so," Xena answered huskily, nibbling the bard's neck. "Watching you got me a little wound up."
The bard's hand travelled down Xena's body slowly, lingering on the warrior's breasts before gliding down in loving appreciation of her belly. When Gabrielle's hand ventured even further south, she was surprised at how wet Xena was. "Just a little wound up?" she teased.
Xena's eyes darkened with sensuality. "Maybe more than just a little," she whispered, kissing Gabrielle deeply and resting her own hand on top of the bard's errant one. "I want you so much, Gabrielle."
The words made Gabrielle's heart pound audibly in her ears, and she shifted the warrior back over onto her back. "I am yours," she answered lovingly between kisses. "I want to give you what you have given me," she breathed.
The bard proved to be a fast learner, showing great skill at not only teasing Xena's breasts with her mouth, but also in stroking the warrior's erogenous zones to bring her to a powerful, shuddering climax.
They lay spent in each other's arms for a short time, caressing one another softly.
"You called out my name," Gabrielle finally said softly.
Xena smiled. "Did I?"
The bard leaned up so she could see Xena's face. "Yes, you did. It was the most amazing thing."
"Mmm, for me too," Xena joked. "But tell me just where did you hone such talents, my dear?"
"Are you saying that I'm adept in bed?"
Xena cringed at the reminder of Mathias' drunken words as Gabrielle laughed. "Sorry about that," Xena muttered. "That was a long time ago."
Gabrielle traced the jawline of her favorite warrior as she replied. "Xena, whatever happened in the past you cannot change. All that matters now is that I love you. I want to be with you forever."
The words brought tears to Xena's normally overly dry eyes. "You are so beautiful, Gabrielle. You have never judged me for my past, and I don't know that I have ever thanked you for that."
"If you had not been the woman you were then, you could not have become the woman you are now, and she is everything to me."
They kissed then, a long luxurious meeting of mouths.
"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena said passionately.
"I love you too."
"Don't ever try to make me jealous again," the warrior growled.
Gabrielle's eyes gleamed. "Don't ever take me for granted," she countered.
Xena looked deeply into the blue-green eyes of her lover. "That's a promise, my love. I think I'll start appreciating you right now "
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